Predators drop Jets 3-1

Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne (C) stops a shot by Winnipeg Jets left wing Andrew Ladd (L)...

Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne (C) stops a shot by Winnipeg Jets left wing Andrew Ladd (L) as teammate right wing Martin Erat (R) looks on during the third period of their NHL hockey game in Nashville, Tennessee, March 24, 2012.

, Last Updated: 12:40 AM ET

NASHVILLE - It was mostly country music in the honky-tonks around the Bridgestone Arena, Saturday night.

But inside, the Winnipeg Jets were singing the blues.

Saturday night’s 3-1 loss to the Nashville Predators might not have been the final notes in this song, but the fade-out has clearly begun.

Because in Buffalo, the Sabres made it a six-point bridge between the Jets and the eighth and final playoff spot in the NHL East.

And there are still the ninth-place Washington Capitals, four points up, to catch, too, with seven games to play.

“It’s a tough task,” Jets head coach Claude Noel acknowledged. “You now become reliant on others.”

That the Jets closed out their road trip so meekly, generating so few scoring chances, was startling.

Of course, they were playing yet another dreaded back-to-back game, a lament if we’ve every heard one for this bunch, now 1-11 in that scenario.

If they’d only done as well as Washington has in that department (5-7-1) guess where they’d be?

”I don’t know if we were tired,” Tim Stapleton, the only goal scorer for Winnipeg, said. “I don’t think there’s really any excuses.”

Never mind excuses. How about a simple explanation for how a makeshift fourth line comprised of two American League call-ups — Spencer Machacek and Ben Maxwell, along with Stapleton — can look so much better than what’s supposed to be one of Winnipeg’s top lines?

Evander Kane (goal-less in five games), Kyle Wellwood (seven) and Alex Burmistrov (10) haven’t exactly been singing harmony.

Kane, though, deflected the theory his unit has been sadder than a country song.

“In the last three games we’ve had some good scoring opportunities,” he began. “Maybe not (Saturday), but in the last two. Personally, I’ve had some good scoring opportunities. They just haven’t gone to the net.”

Neither did the Jets on this night.

Nobody got anywhere near Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne, who barely broke a sweat.

“Maybe emotionally (the energy) wasn’t as high,” Kane said. “But physically I felt good. Wasn’t tired out there at all.”

Then why generate so little.

Quality shots? In the nearby saloons, maybe — not on the Nashville goal.

The Preds had enough in the first period alone to win this one.

But goalie Ondrej Pavelec again gave his team a chance.

“He was incredible,” is how Tanner Glass put it. “He was our best player.”

For the second straight night, it took desperation for the Jets to get going, Stapleton’s goal with seven minutes left igniting some passion.

But there would be no miracle ending the way there was in Washington, Friday.

The Jets didn’t deserve one.

“If we had got one a little bit earlier it might have energized us,” Noel said. “But it’s not like we deserved to get one earlier.”

Maybe the coach should have played his hottest line a little more.

Stapleton, Machacek and Maxwell finished the three-game road trip with a combined 13 points — 13 more than Kane and Co.

Noel finally got them nine minutes of ice time, including a shift in the final minute, the Jets down by just one.

Noel says he tried to get them more but kept running into whistles, which would have allowed the Preds to get matchups he didn’t want.

“I don’t think it’s ‘We need more ice time,’ ” Stapleton said. “There’s no need to complain about that.”

The Jets top line couldn’t get anything going, either. So I guess Nashville’s defensive boogie is just that good.

“There was very little space out there,” Noel said.

The same thing applies to the Jets, now.

There’s only one thing that can stop the fade out, now.

“Probably go undefeated,” Stapleton said. “And hope for some losses.”

Sounds like nothing but heartbreak, to me.

FLIGHT RECORDER

THE SKINNY

The Jets says they weren’t lacking energy, but they couldn’t get much going against the defensive clampdown of the Preds all night. Ondre Pavelec kept his team in it, but you’re not going to win many by scoring once. The Jets needed four points on this three-game road trip, and got two.

REPORT CARD

FORWARDS (D): While Nashville gets some credit, the Jets have proven they can generate offence when they’re on their game. On this night, they weren’t. Andrew Ladd’s line was OK, but shut out. Evander Kane’s was less than OK.

DEFENCE (C-): This was an average night on the blue line: far too many first period chances for the Preds. Very little offence and three penalties.

GOALTENDING: (A): Pavelec kept it scoreless in the first period, when the Preds had a handful of glorious chances. Patric Hornqvist, Alexander Radulov, Shea Weber and Francis Bourque were left shaking their heads by the Jets ’tender.

UP NEXT

The Jets return to the friendly confines of home for a Monday game against Ottawa. Game time 7:30 p.m.


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